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Relish this championship, West Linn

On March 8, 1997, I was the Rose Garden and watched what is still, to this day, perhaps the most electrifying sporting event I have ever witnessed.

I sat or, more accurately, stood in the student section and watched in disbelief as the Lions, who had been tentative and uncharacteristic for the better part of three quarters, stormed back from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to stun Sheldon for the state championship, the program's first.

To be a part of something that emotional and historic was truly unforgettable. I was at every game of the tournament that year, relishing in the time we got out of classes watching our classmates on the biggest stage in the state and going berserk in the stands with friends and relative strangers after each basket.

On March 9, 2013, I was at the Rose Garden and I watched West Linn win its second boys basketball state title.

But while I couldn't have been sitting more than 200 feet away from where I was 16 years ago, the perspective was entirely different.

I envied the fans behind the basket with their face paint, spirit gear and yellow towels. I had to watch my alma mater pull off one of the more shocking state championships in any sport in recent memory and I had to be professional about it, which seems entirely unfair.

There are few bigger no-nos in the world of sports journalism than cheering in the press box. So, at the risk of losing my court-side seat, I had to stop my foot from nervously tapping as Jarrod Howard approached the foul line with his team trailing by a point in the final seconds of its opening win over Grant.

I had to be rational and even-handed following West Linn's win over Lake Oswego. And I had to bite my lip to keep my mouth shut as Central Catholic made its final charge in the state title game.

But I have a confession to make. When Ryan Shearmire knocked down the free throw to give the Lions a four-point lead with just seconds remaining... I smiled. I might have even shook my head slightly.

I just remembered what it felt like when West Linn won its first title in 1997 and how the entire city rallied around the team that year. I remember being excited to go to coach Bart Valentine's math class the following Monday just to see his reaction.

There are very few similarities between the two state champion teams. The 1997 squad was senior heavy, led by a seasoned head coach and his son, the star point guard who caught fire and the most opportune time.

That squad entered the year and the state tournament as one of a handful of teams with a legitimate chance at winning the title.

The 2013 team's core consists of an exciting group of young players with incredibly unique personalities. This squad entered the year presumably just hoping to garner more experience for next season as one of a handful of teams that made up the second tier behind Lake Oswego.

The similarities lie in the community and the reaction to what a state title means. There was random hugging, indecipherable yelling for joy and many, many tears.

It's special. And I got to witness it again, this time as an allegedly impartial observer.

To the West Linn players, students and fans... enjoy it. These will be memories that stick.

In a congratulatory note sent out to the community, West Linn principal Lou Bailey said that no one can know if West Linn will ever have an experience like this again. He's right.

West Linn will enter next season with a considerably talented squad, but nothing is ever certain. And even if another dramatic title run in basketball or another sport is just around the corner, it will be its own unique entity and an entirely different journey.

So for now, simply step back and appreciate your Lions, the 2013 boys basketball state champions.




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